New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper
Chapter 12: Corporate Ethical Codes as a Vehicle of Reducing Corruption in Organizations
Betsy Stevens Corruption – a historical problem Corruption has scarred the image of US business almost since its inception. From the importation of slaves to the exploitation of immigrants, use of sweatshops, and the greed of the Robber Barons in the nineteenth century to the Enron, Tyco and WorldCom scandals, business has been plagued with corruption and has struggled unsuccessfully to maintain a clean image in the public eye. For example, In 1968, 42 percent of Americans who were surveyed agreed with the statement, ‘Most businessmen will do anything – honest or not – for a buck’ (Baumhart, 1961). The next decade saw little improvement; business was heavily involved in government, the defense industry, and seen by many as profiting from the Vietnam war. Gallup polls conducted in 1976 and 1977 revealed that 19 percent of the American public rated the ethical standards of business executives ‘low or very low’ (Gallup, 1977). In the 1980s Lincoln Savings and Loan collapsed to the tune of $3.4 billion, eventually costing the American taxpayers almost $500 billion (Allis and Greenwald, 1996). Although times were prosperous, public skepticism toward business ethics continued. In 1986 a New York Times/CBS poll found that 56 percent of respondents rated business ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ regarding their contributions to the well-being of the community in which they were located (Lipset and Schneider, 1987) and in the following year, another poll showed that 49 percent of respondents thought that white collar business crime was ‘very common’ (Jackson and Collingwood, 1987). Throughout the 1990s,...
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